Today Lio Rush is an integral part of Raw as the hype man for Bobby Lashley in addition to being an in-ring performer. But there was a point where he questioned if he would eve make it to WWE after being rejected by Tough Enough in 2015.
Rush joined Lilian Garcia's podcast where he talked about that experience and how it motivated him to eventually reach the position he's in today.
"For a split second, literally like a split second it was a little weird because I made Patrick Clark's [Velveteen Dream] Tough Enough video," said Rush. "I made his video and it was cool to see it on Raw because it was like, 'Holy crap! I made that video.' It kind of also hit me like, man, okay, now I am by myself and we started training on the same exact day."
Rush and Velveteen Dream are both from the DMV area and trained together in Maryland. They also won the Maryland Championship Wrestling [MCW] tag team titles when both were just 20 years old.
"Patrick Clark was the one who told me about MCW and we started training on the same day and graduated on the same day," revealed Rush. "We had all of our [tag] matches - we never had a single's match and then he up and left. I kind of felt a certain way. I took a week off just to disappear for a while and then I kind of thought to myself, okay, this is my chance and my opportunity to show what I am made of and the amount of hard work I can put in and how I can create a name for myself as a solo competitor. So that even put a chip on my shoulder and that is what I believe has sky rocketed me to be signed by the WWE."
Rush eventually joined NXT in mid-2017 but found himself in hot water a short time later. After WWE released Emma, Rush made a joke about it on social media which was met with lots of criticism from fellow wrestlers.
He eventually apologized but WWE also disciplined him by removing him from all NXT events for a couple of weeks. Rush says he initially didn't realize what the big deal about his tweet was, but then it hit him and he reached out to Emma to apologize.
"It hit me so fast and hard I remember I was sitting at a Waffle House when I tweeted that out," stated Rush. "I didn't even mean it in the slightest way to be hurtful or anything. I remember being so entertained with what Asuka was doing and her saying that nobody is ready for Asuka, and honestly it was so stupid. People tried to tell me that they think I should take the tweet down and I didn't really see the negative in it at all and I even left it up when somebody told me to take it down. I was like, no, it's fine, I didn't mean it in a negative way."
In Rush's since-deleted tweet, he said "I guess these are the things that happen when you're not TRULY ready for Asuka."
"It isn't like I am bashing her or anything like that," Rush said of Emma. "Then I started seeing hundreds of comments and then thousands of comments and people just raining down on me and I was thinking, man, I messed up really bad, really, really bad. I felt so bad and reached out to Emma and at first I had mixed feelings about it and then ultimately I just realized I messed up and it was such a sensitive and real moment and it was new to me because I never really seen WWE tweet anything out like that where they were releasing a WWE Superstar. So, I thought, oh, this is different. I just wasn't thinking and wasn't aware of the situation and how real the situation was."
Darren Young was also released at the same time Emma was, and Rush actually ran into Young shortly after the backlash of the tweet started.
"I was telling him what was happening to me and what I was going through and he told me to keep my head up and we exchanged numbers," Rush said. "So, when that happened it wasn't like I was making fun of people who were released because it's like, man, Darren Young. I had connected to him in such a way where I felt horrible. It was a lot going through my head and ultimately, I tried reaching out to Emma.
"I didn't get a response and then she tweeted out a heartbreaking emoji and when she tweeted that it really blew up and thought, oh God, this is bad. Then, I started to get really depressed and I was thinking about disappearing and I remember reaching out to Paige because of the situation that she went through and people saying such negative comments about her and saying some of the most hateful things you can think of and I was like, man, I don't want to be here anymore and it was all because of a stupid tweet where I knew I really messed up.
"It was just really bad. I reached out to Paige over Twitter and she didn't see it but I saw her at the Performance Center. This was before she was about to make her comeback and she was training. I got the chance to talk with her and she was talking about some of the things she was going through and how she dealt with it and I even asked her if she could please reach out to Emma for me and let her know that I didn't mean anything hurtful and how everything had gotten blown up and got really bad. I don't know if Emma got the message though."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.